The shout of triumph voiced by the boys when the Fortuna floated free was echoed when Frank came to the surface after having bent on the line he carried to the end of the chain cable. He was nearly breathless when he reached the surface, but willing hands pulled him over the stern of the rowboat in which the boys had searched for the lost anchor. Soon he recovered his wind.
Peace seemed never to reign for long in the Fortuna. Scarcely had the boys shouted in victory over the recovery of the anchor than they heard a shot from the shore. Harry, from his position on the pilot house, gesticulated and pointed inland in a frenzy.
JACK STRICKEN BY A BULLET
“What’s up now?” cried Jack from the rowboat.
“That villain has shot Tom and is running away across the island!” cried Arnold from his position. “Tom’s lying on the sand!”
“Great Double-Barreled Wiggle-Headed Pollywogs!” ejaculated Harry. “Excuse my French, but this is too much. If he’s killed Tom, I’ll resign from the Boy Scouts for a few minutes. I will so!”
“Pull for the shore, boys!” urged Jack. “Get into your clothes, Frank!” And then, before either of his orders could be obeyed, he seized the oars and pulled the boat with lusty strokes toward the beach, intent on capturing the outlaw if possible. Great sobs escaped him as he worked manfully at the oars.
Each boy at that moment was mentally blaming himself for the tragedy he was sure would await their arrival at the scene of the campfire. Each one felt that he should have remained to guard the captive outlaw who was so evidently desperate because of his situation.
But Jack’s exertions were unnecessary. Before the rowboat reached the sand, a flash of white had appeared over the bows of the Fortuna, a great splash of water gave evidence of a heavy body launched from the deck, and a commotion betokened a swimmer in action.
“Good old boy!” cried Frank with a sob in his throat.
“That never was Arnold!” cried Harry aghast at the thought of his chum venturing into the water alone on such a quest.
“Not on your life!” Jack protested. “That was our one and only. Old Rowdy is on the job with both feet. He’s going ashore for business, too. I believe that dog actually knows things!”
“Heaven help that poor wretch if Rowdy gets to him first!” cried Harry. “Rowdy has more enthusiasm than caution, and he’s apt to get rough. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Wyckoff all strung around the island in small pieces when we get there.”
In a short time the nose of the rowboat grounded on the beach.
The three boys leaped out and raced quickly to their fallen chum. Tom was struggling to rise from his prone position. Far across the sands the fleeing figure of the outlaw was being rapidly overtaken by the enraged bulldog, who sensed the situation and who apparently was determined to overtake and punish the escaped prisoner.